Are You More At Risk of Suffering SAD this Winter?
You may have heard of the phrase ‘winter blues’ before. People often use this to refer to depression over winter. However, this phrase waters-down the harsh reality SAD is for the 1 in 3 people suffer from SAD annually. The true term for this shift in mood in the winter months is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
SAD can wreak havoc on a person’s life, taking away their happiness, their motivation and their energy for weeks or months at a time. Trying to live a normal life with this debilitating mental illness is tough, and many of us look to the change of seasons with fear as a result.
But, did you know that some of us are genetically more at-risk of facing SAD than others? People with darker skin tend to have lower levels of Vitamin D, which sunlight is essential for creating. Vitamin D is what supports our brain development and functioning! Therefore, low levels of Vitamin D – made worse in the winter months with fewer sunlight hours – can lead to depression and SAD.
Are you more at risk of suffering from SAD? Then please keep reading to learn more about this mental health illness and the ways you can protect yourself!
What is SAD?
SAD is different from depression as it tends only to affect people during certain months of the year. Most often, these are the colder months towards the end of autumn and throughout winter. This is because there are fewer hours of sunlight, meaning our bodies are getting less Vitamin D. For the minority, SAD can occur during the warmer months instead.
Why Do People Suffer from SAD?
Sunlight doesn’t just enter our body through our skin, but our eyes too. Sitting at the back of our eyes in the regulator of our body clock, which responds to light signals. If we have reduced light exposure, the body clock changes and can cause the onset of depressive disorders like SAD.
However, those with darker skin tones have a more challenging time getting enough Vitamin D. Our body makes Vitamin D when we are exposed to sunlight, but people with darker skin have more melanin which can soak up ultraviolet and prevent it being used to make this essential vitamin. This has an even more apparent effect on mental health in winter when sunlight hours are reduced, meaning the limited Vitamin D people with darker skin receive from the sun only decreases even more.
Get More Sunlight
With sunlight hours reduced in winter, it is more important than ever that we take advantage of these and get outside where we can soak in the rays. Try and set up a routine which allows you to go out or find a place where you will be exposed to sunlight for some time. Often, we wake up in the dark and go to work, only to come home in the dark too. Try and fit some ‘sunlight time’ in your breaks or lunchtime where you can go for a short walk or eat your food in an open, bright room.
On the weekend, try not to let the cold weather keep you trapped inside. Go for a short walk, partake in an exercise like jogging or even walk to your local shop rather than driving. Just one or two of these activities over the weekend will help boost your exposure to sunlight and increase your Vitamin D levels.
Alternative Sources of Vitamin D
Try and supplement the decrease in Vitamin D with different foods this vitamin can be found in:
- Oily fish – salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel
- Red meat
- Egg Yolks
- Fortified foods – some fat spreads and breakfast cereals
There aren’t many different foods with Vitamin D, but still, something for vegetarians and meat-eaters to incorporate in their diet. If none of these foods is to your fancy, then you can always up to your Vitamin D via dietary supplements.
Seek Therapy Support
Sometimes, SAD only aggravates a depression or anxiety we are already facing. There are many other reasons beyond a lack of sunlight for a person facing negative thoughts and feelings. Past trauma, education, home life, relationship troubles, self-confidence and body image issues, and bullying are just some of the reasons a person may face severe mental health issues like depression or anxiety.
Rather than letting these become worse during the winter months, you can learn how to manage the symptoms and prevent them from overwhelming your happiness and lifestyle. Therapy can provide you with the expert knowledge and support you need to face your mental health journey with confidence.
If you understand why you think and feel a certain way, it can be easier for you to look to a future without these debilitating symptoms. As a therapist, I have experience working with a wide range of people and mental health issues. This means I have extensive knowledge of how the mind works and what tricks, tips and advice work best when trying to find our real selves beneath the mental illness.
Please take a look at my website to learn more about my services as a therapist and how I can support your mental health journey. As we traverse through these winter months, we must think about the different ways our mental health can be affected. With less sunlight allowing for the creation of Vitamin D, we have to look to other sources as well as other means to keep our mood boosted. If you want to learn more about mental health, then don’t hesitate to get in contact with me.